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Chicago Cubs: Ignore the bullpen meltdown, be excited about the offense

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs blew an eight run lead on Friday, but ignore that. Well, try to at least. The bullpen hasn’t let us down all that often. But the at-bats by the Cubs–while all home runs–were encouraging to see.

The Chicago Cubs opener on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles had a little bit of everything. It looked like it was going to be a blowout as the offense came out firing, and Mike Montgomery looked strong. But by the third inning, Montgomery began to falter, and the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. We’ve been able to count on the Cubs bullpen more often than not. And to be honest, I’m not sure why the Cubs moved Eddie Butler to the pen while keeping Montgomery in the rotation, but I digress.

The Cubs launched five home runs, accounting for the entire night’s offense. Now, we’ve talked about how they can’t keep swinging for the fences and rely on that strategy. But last night’s at-bats looked a little different. And it wasn’t just solo home runs. Willson Contreras hit a three-run home run, and Ben Zobrist had a two-run shot of his own. Kyle Schwareber had no choice in his since Contreras had cleared the bases right before him. Jason Heyward‘s was a solo but was one of three balls hit with an exit velocity of 100+ mph. And Addison Russell‘s? I’ll take his over all of them.

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Did the trip to Iowa work?

In the case of Schwarber, it’s not just about the home run. In his five games since being called back up, he’s slashed a .278/.350/.722 with two doubles and two home runs. He’s also shown a willingness to go the other way. Yes, he’s still struck out five times, including two last night. But not everyone can be Anthony Rizzo. If Schwarber can stick around the .250 line and hit home runs as he has? That’s a win.

Heyward is a new player this year. After last season, he went to work to prove 2016 was a blip on the radar, not the norm. He’s done that and more while continuing to provide Gold Glove defense in right field. His slash of .258/.316/.406 isn’t eye-popping. But it’s an improvement over last year’s version of himself.

The “old” Addy

Russell has become the talk of some fans and media, and not for the right reasons. First, there’s been no proof of his domestic violence case. It may leave the Cubs with questions, but that’s it. But it has been something that has lingered. The biggest reason has been his struggles at the plate. Friday night was the “old” Russell. A clutch situation in the late-innings when they needed him. This was something he did on the regular last year, but it’s been missing in 2017. Hopefully, this is the start of a turnaround for him.

Next: Not the favorite anymore, but not out of it

Last night was upsetting to watch, but not indicative of this team. The Cubs have a 3.33 ERA from their bullpen. If you’re spouting the “this bullpen sucks” complaint, well, no–it doesn’t. Things haven’t come together as far as the starting pitching, offense and bullpen working in harmony. That may be coming, but only time will tell. The Cubs added Jose Quintana, and might not be done yet. Theo Epstein likes to keep us in the dark, just like a good GM should.

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